Bushmen prevented from bringing water into one of world’s driest regions

July 19, 2010

The Bushmen rely on donkeys to bring water into the reserve. © Survival International

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Authorities in Botswana are preventing Kalahari Bushmen from bringing water to their relatives in one of the driest places on earth.

The move suggests the government is stepping up its long-running campaign to force the Bushmen out of their ancestral homeland and into government resettlement camps.

Wildlife scouts have told Bushmen attempting to bring water into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) for their hard- pressed relatives that they cannot use donkeys to carry the water since these are no longer permitted.

Without access to vehicles, Bushmen wanting to support friends and families inside the reserve rely heavily on donkeys to transport water to them. Despite a High Court ruling that says the Bushmen have the right to live on their ancestral lands inside the reserve, the Botswana government has banned residents from accessing a borehole on their lands. In the dry season this makes them dependent on water from outside the reserve, which is extremely difficult to carry without donkeys.

Last month, the Bushmen went to court in a bid to gain access to their borehole. However, the Bushmen are still waiting for the judge to give his ruling; this is scheduled to be announced on Wednesday, July 21.

The new policy appears to be in clear breach of Regulation 25(1) of the National Parks and Game Reserves Regulations which provides that anyone can enter the Reserve ‘by means of… riding a horse, camel, donkey or other animal approved by the Director’. It is presumably on this basis that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks has said that ‘Animal back safaris (camel, horseback, etc.) must be permitted and encouraged’ in ‘low density tourism zones’ including areas of the CKGR. What is not acceptable when a Bushman does it is, apparently, perfectly acceptable when a tourist does it. One pays money and the other does not.

The government has also allowed the opening of a luxury Wilderness Safaris tourist lodge, complete with bar and swimming pool for tourists, and drilled new boreholes to provide water for wildlife only. In the near future it is likely to issue a licence for a diamond mine on Bushman land, for which new boreholes will be drilled, on condition that the mine will not provide water to the Bushmen.

Survival’s director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘When they realise what’s going on, ethical tourists won’t want to go to areas where they have rights explicitly denied to the Indigenous peoples. Botswana says it wants more tourists, yet its actions couldn’t be better designed to put them off. The country’s relentless oppression of its first citizens is yet another nail in the coffin of its reputation.’